There is silence between the three of us. The gravity of his statement lingers on the air.
In the silence, the woman behind the counter places our food in front of us, then returns to the kitchen area. Perhaps the mood between us was enough for her to understand that the conversation could use some privacy.
“…Explain.” I say without looking away from my food
I choose my words carefully… or rather fearfully. Without knowing what information he has, anything I say could give away an even more damning piece of information. Maou or not, my involvement with the goblins will not be looked over lightly. If I’m unlucky the hunt for my life has already started.
“Relax, I wouldn’t have brought him to you if he was against you. Whether you want to believe it’s because we are business partners, or that our deal isn’t done yet is up to you.” Juire says attempting to lighten the mood a little
His words do little for my nerves, however. I wait in silence for the answer I demanded.
“Let me start from the beginning then,” Faurch says in a resolved tone
I finally look up from my food to see that his face is serious, but devoid of Malice. In response to his words, I simply nod and continue to listen.
“There is an area completely devoid of life north from the village of Jin. No monster, animal, or human dares reside there. Even the most simple of creatures can feel an inexplicable sense of danger from it.” Faurch begins
North of Jin… wasn’t that around where the goblin chief said they planned to set up?
“The reason why is unknown, but the phenomena is strange enough to be under investigation from the local adventures guilds.” He says as he begins to eat his noodles
Should I be happy that he seems to be enjoying them in this kind of situation?
“I’m sure you know what they ended up finding there in their most recent expedition. From your reaction, I can assume that I was right and that these are the same goblins we asked you to take care of before?” He continues
Silence lingers again as I consider how I should answer.
This isn’t a situation lying can get me out of, is it? At this point shouldn’t I just be grateful that is all he knows? If I give him any more reason to dig things will end quite badly for me.
“That is correct,” I say simply with resolve
I’m simply going to have to trust him, even if it’s a gamble.
“Brilliant! I had a feeling you would exceed my expectations when we sent you.” Faurch says with a genuine smile
Rather than the wicked or conniving smiles so many of my associate wear on their faces, this is the smile of someone truly having fun.
“Pardon?” I ask, caught off guard by his answer
“Sure, annihilating the goblins might have saved us from future losses, but it does nothing to return what we have already lost. Turning a problem into an asset is one of a merchant’s greatest tools.” Faurch says regaining some of the dignity he showed earlier, but still unable to hide his good mood
“I don’t understand. Does this mean you like the deal with the goblins? Why? Wouldn’t most people despise associating with monsters?” I ask almost upset at his glee
Why have I been trying so hard to hide this if he was going to react like this?! Give me back my hard work!
“Your not wrong, this one just has something loose in his head.” Juire chimes in, tapping his own head with his chopsticks
“I’m simply someone who knows better than to put the morals of others before their own assertions. The goblins are able to obtain materials that adventurers would hardly dare to go after in such a rural region, asking only for food and tools, which are easily obtained commodities on our trade routes.” Faurch says with a stern glance at Juire
They seem so familiar with one another. They feel as though they are old pals of one another.
“Regardless of how I feel about it, however, the kingdom views this as a possible disaster scenario. Monsters organizing means they become more powerful, and thus a greater threat. Should they find out about our connection to this village we will be treated as enemies of the kingdom.” Faurch continues with a completely serious look
“…So what’s the plan?” I ask grasping the gravity of the situation
I’ve not only put myself in danger, but I’ve also dragged them into this as well. Even if they didn’t know what they were doing, the kingdom will still likely punish their crimes all the same.
“That’s where I come in.” Juire chimes in
“Remember that plantation I told you about? The one the king promised me for winning? Well, I might have fibbed just a tad.” He says with his usual wicked grin and playful tone
Of course he did.
“Rather than a single farm, what he promised me is more of a fief. I didn’t lie about why, however. Near the center of my territory are several large fields, and I plan to convert each of them to Taurch production.” He continues
“And how exactly does this relate to what we were talking about?” I ask annoyed
“Simple, you need a place to hide your friends, and I could use some strong workers to till and work the fields. We had intended to keep our fields out of public view in the first place to hide our sugar making method. Since the fields belong to us the kingdom will steer clear of them.” He explains
“… I suppose that could work. They would need a field or two to produce food for themselves, but if your willing to shelter them I could probably convince them to work in return.” I begin to say aloud as I mull over the idea
The goblins certainly wouldn’t be fond of this plan. They still seemed to hold a lot of resentment towards humans the last time I was there. Maybe the chief would be able to do something to convince them?
“Wait, what would you get out of this Faurch? With the goblins leaving you would lose all of the materials that you were getting before. Why protect them if they are no longer useful to you?” I ask
Protecting them only serves to deepen his crimes against the kingdom. Coming to us about this doesn’t really seem like it works to his advantage.
“Aside from this being a quick way to make the problem disappear, it also serves to indebt you to me. I’m afraid I’m not doing this out of the kindness of my heart, I am a merchant after all.” He says with a gentle smile
My image of him being a kind gentle old man is slowly fading.
“Don’t forget that none of this will matter unless you can win though. I’ll start making preparations to smuggle your friends out of the forest. I can hide them in some old warehouses we own until we can start setting up the farm.” Juire says as he writes something onto a piece a paper and hands it to me
“Whats this?” I ask as I pretend to read it
“The bill. I’m not a hotel. I’m gonna charge you for every day I shelter them, so you better win me that fief quickly.” He says with a wicked grin